Scientists identify pessimistic section of brain

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A tiny section of your brain is to blame if you happen to be one of those people who always expect the worst.

British scientists have identified the part of the brain responsible for forewarning us about bad events, which aids us in learning from our mistakes.

They say the habenula, a section about half the size of a pea, plays a huge role in humans learning from bad experiences. For some people, this section could be linked to a negative perspective of life, depression and pessimism.

Scientists are hoping that by obtaining more understanding about exactly how this section of the brain works, they could develop new depression treatments.

The lead researcher from University College London, Dr Jonathan Roiser, said the study indicated that the habenula does not only show whether something leads to negative events, it indicates how bad the expected result will be.

The team scanned the brains of 23 healthy females, who were asked to view a random group of pictures, some of which showed a painful electrical shock to the left hand.

The scans indicated that the pictures showing the electrical shock activated the habenula. The response was more enhanced when the women were anticipating receiving an electric shock.

Dr Roiser stated that the new findings may pave the way to new treatment methods.

He added that other research has shown that ketamine, which has immediate and increased benefits in patients who did not respond to standard antidepressant medication, hinders activity in the habenula. This indicates that understanding of the habenula could aid in the development of better treatment options for treatment-resistant depression.

Image Credit: J Wynia

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Robert Wiltshire

Robert is a part-time writer and enjoys screen writing when his schedule allows. A keen writer, Robert graduated in 2002 from Warwick University with a 2:1 in Creative Writing. Hobbies include; Mountain Biking, Keeping Fit and Cooking

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